WHAT'S MORE CONTROVERSIAL THAN A BOOK ABOUT OUR CURRENT PRESIDENT'S QUESTIONABLE PAST? A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT SAID BOOK. AND WE HAVE FILMMAKERS SUKI HAWLEY AND MICHAEL GALINSKY TO THANK FOR IT. JUST AS WE HAVE BETHANY SHADY TO THANK FOR DOING THE INTERVIEW.
Bethany: How long have you two been working together?
Suki: It'll be ten years at the end of this year.
Michael: We started out with Half-Cocked nearly a decade ago.
B: What made you decide to do a documentary this time around, as opposed to your previous, more fictional work?
S: The other two films-- Half-Cocked and Radiation-- were both about the indie music world, and starred members of actual bands playing versions of themselves. So, in a sense, they were documents of that time and place, if not documentaries. In fact, we were conscious of not wanting to make a documentary of the music scene at the time because we knew we were too close to it, and it would be pretentious or too much of an advocacy film. When the idea of this movie presented itself, we had enough critical distance this time to go ahead and do actual non-fiction; not to mention the fact that the players were all real "characters" already, and more interesting if portrayed as their own selves-- like G.W. Bush, for example.
M: Doing a documentary gave us a great deal of control. We didn't need to rely on others to get it done, and we could get it started quickly, since we already had a video camera and editing system.
B: Was documenting the re-publishing of Fortunate Son something you did because you have a strong sense of political activism, or did you just pick a subject to document that you thought might be interesting?
S: When we started this movie, I wasn't extremely politically active-- I voted. The process of shooting Sander at several protests totally politicized me, especially the reality of the media coverage of the events. We were at the inauguration protest, which was the largest protest of a president's inauguration since Nixon, with thousands of protesters lining the streets. Yet there was little coverage of it, and the coverage that existed only distorted the numbers. So, at first, it just seemed like a good story with good characters. Later, it became something political to me.
M: Both. We didn't want it to be an activist film in the sense that we didn't want it to be seen as a partisan film. We really wanted to document it from an outsider's viewpoint in order to make it something anyone could watch and not feel assaulted by.
B: How and when did you go about beginning to document this story?
S: We read about the book being pulled in a tiny article in the paper, which raised more questions for me than it answered. Then Sander sent out a press release stating that he would re-publish the burned book, so we called him and asked if we could document his process. He agreed. So, we went to see him on a Saturday during his sweep-and-mop; we walked up shooting, and he went into this tirade about how he has a right, even as a punk rock flibberdigibbit,.. and I knew we had a story, because we had a character.
M: We heard about the book being pulled when we were coming back from a film fest in Thailand. We thought it was odd that the story was so small. A couple of weeks later, we got a package from Sander saying that he was re-releasing the book. Two days later, we were shooting.
B: What kind of relationship formed between you two with Sander Hicks and James Hatfield?
S: We were always friendly with both. With Sander, we were like annoying older siblings, I think he definitely felt like an annoying younger brother sometimes. With Hatfield, we only were able to spend four days total with him, but I felt friendly, if distant, with him.
M: We got to know Sander a little too well, but we didn't have that much time with Hatfield.
B: Had either of you read Fortunate Son before you heard that it was causing such a stir with the Bush campaign and that it was being pulled from the shelves?
S: No. We first heard about it from the article about it being pulled.
M: Only after getting involved with the story did we read it.
B: While filming, did it seem like Hatfield was unwinding throughout?
S: No. In fact, I was shocked by his severe downturn. He was always so charming and in control of his message that it never occurred to me that he was unwinding so badly.
M: We didn't have too much contact with him. At the book expo, near the end of the film, it seemed like things were taking their toll on him, but he also seemed to be weathering the storm pretty well, considering.
B: What are your thoughts on Hatfield's suicide, and the view that it may have been set up by the CIA?
S: The suicide was a total shock. We felt a little suspicious at first, but the Bentonville police department sent us the suicide note. After reading that, we had no doubts.
M: Once we read the note we had no doubts whatsoever that he took his own life. Also, the CIA had no reason to attack him. He had already been so discredited that he posed no threat to anyone.
B: Were you at all apprehensive about covering such a controversial subject, especially after Hatfield's suicide?
S: At first, it didn't seem that controversial to me. Then, in the middle of it, I got nervous. But after getting politicized, and after Hatfield's death, I had no qualms about releasing it.
M: No. We live in a free society,.. he said naively. Seriously, I didn't have fears that someone would get me, but instead that we simply wouldn't be able to get the film seen.
B: How have your family members and friends reacted to the film?
S: Really positively. Everyone seems really moved by it.
M: So far everyone appreciates it for what it is.
B: Have you heard that since the release of the film, book sales of Fortunate Son have increased?
S: I actually met a girl who works at Barnes & Noble, and she said the book wasn't selling very well. Then she heard about our movie opening, so she put it on a front table. The day after the movie opened in New York she sold 50 copies. Not scientific, but an anecdote.
M: The film has certainly increased the knowledge of the book, which has helped them sell more.
B: Have you two been approached at all by any Bush representatives with any threats or negative feedback regarding the film?
B: What are you two working on next?
M: Raising the baby that was born five minutes after we finished the film and getting this movie out to theaters.
VISIT SUKI AND MICHAEL HERE.
PURCHASE ITEMS BY SUKI HAWLEY AND MICHAEL GALINSKY